Manipur assembly election is undergoing and with that there are some noises regarding Kuki tribe because few days back most of the insurgent groups associated with a Kuki tribe in Manipur announced that they will collectively vote for the BJP. This comes a few days after the Union home minister Shri Amit Shah announced that if BJP comes to power once again in the state of Manipur, they will resolve the Kuki insurgency problem in the next five years. Kuki's are not one specific tribe, they're actually an ethnic group, which are a group of multiple tribes, which live in the northeast part of India, not just in Manipur but also in states such as Mizoram, Assam and in some parts of Myanmar as well.
Within Manipur the Kuki tribes are in a minority while the Meities are in majority. So the Kuki's live in the hilly areas mainly and make up 30% of the population of the state, while the Meities are non tribals and they live in the Valley region. So the first problem within the state is kind of a conflict between the Kuki tribals and the Meities non tribals. The Kuki tribals are the ones who live in the hills and they comprise about 30% of the state's population, while majority of the state population is Meities and they live in the Valley region.
In a democracy, population plays a big role because Meities are the ones who have highest population in the state. They are the ones who usually win most of the seats in the Manipur assembly elections. They are the ones who have most of the seats allotted to them and the Kuki's obviously don't like it, the Kuki's wanted the number of seats given to them should be more and they should have a say in how the states would have had. The other issue in the state is between the Kuki tribals and the Naga's also, so amongst the tribal population also there is an issue of Kuki's versus the Nagas since both of them won the controlling position in the state. The Manipur assembly has 60 seats, out of which majority of them that is 40 are held by the Meities and 20 are held by tribal that is Kuki's and the Nagas combine. The Kuki insurgent groups have been active since the 1960s but recently since the beginning of the 21st century they have tried to sign multiple agreements with the governments and achieve a peace settlement. The first one was signed in 2005 it was called a suspension of operation. So in 2005, the Kuki insurgents signed an agreement with the Indian Army, saying that now they will not attack the Indian Army contingent and try to have a deal with the government. In 2008, there was a tripartite agreement signed with three parties first a Kuki insurgents, second the state government of Manipur and third the central government under Dr Manmohan Singh.
This agreement also said that the government would try and resolve the Kuki insurgency issue and till then they should suspend their operations. But the problem is as per the Kuki's, nothing came out of this agreement and every few years the government just keeps on extending the agreement. In fact, in the last five years also, when Manipur state was ruled by the BJP government, they kept on just extending the agreement without actually giving any permanent solution to the Kuki insurgency issue. Now, like most other insurgency issues in North East the Kuki insurgency issue also started when they demanded a separate state for them called the Kuki land. The problem with demanding such a state is that they wanted regions from Myanmar, Manipur Assam and Mizoram which was almost next to impossible, how can you ask some other nation to give a part of it to India because your tribals are demanding it. The second reason behind this conflict is the conflict between the Kuki's and the Nagas and the struggle for power in the 1990s when the Kuki's thought that they would have to fight against the army, they formed the Kuki national organisation and its own armed wing called the Kuki national army and since then, they have had multiple confrontation with the Indian Army and many people have unfortunately lost their lives.
Now since the Kuki leaders have realised that it is not possible to have such a state that they are demanding. Now their demand is that they want a separate independent district and not the state, this is the present demand. Just like we have the Bodoland territorial Council under the six schedule, they also want to have the Kuki land territorial Council. Manipur is not a part of the six schedule, six Schdule has four state that is Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalay, but not Manipur. So the government would need to pass special laws to make sure that Kuki land becomes a part of the six schedule.
So the present stand is number one, they want this independent district for themselves in the sixth schedule. Secondly, the Kuki's have been saying that the government always every single year since 2008, just keeps on extending our agreement, but they don't really come with a proper solution. In fact, the current central government also in September last year had just extended the agreement. The Kuki leaders think that the government of India is more focused on the Naga peace accord because the government thinks that they're under more danger of Nagas revolting against the state and they would want that to be resolved peacefully but the Kuki's wanted their problem should be dissolved first. The other conflict here is that the Naga peace accord that talks about forming greater Nagaland or greater Naga limb, they also want some areas of Manipur where Kuki's are living. So the Kuki's are not really trusting the central government, they want to see which of these two groups gets the area where the Kuki's are inhibiting. The other problem is, majority of the state's population is the Meitie population which have always been against the Kuki's because they think that they are in the majority and they should decide how the state should run, the Kuki's and their demand by the government should not be accepted and they should not be given any special power, it remains to be seen how exactly would the government fulfil this promise if they do, after coming to power?
Looking at the geography of Manipur, it's a very interesting state in the sense that it has a lot of diverse population. This is one of those states in the Northeast that has a considerable amount of non tribal population also living in the valley, but then the hills specially the Churachandpur area are dominated by the Kuki's and they want a separate independent district for themselves. Also, because Manipur has a large international borders and it shares with Myanmar the Indian government has to be very careful in how the state is governed and the fact that there should not be any anti national sentiments in the state because it would lead to a lot of problems for the Indian government.
If you look at the history of Manipur it actually used to be a princely kingdom under Burma, that is today's Myanmar. It became a part of India officially in 1949 and was only a made state in 1972. The demand for statehood, however, was made very early on in the 1950s. But it was only 1972 that it was actually formalised by the Indian government. This led to a rise of militancy within the state, when the people started demanding that they should be given a state of their own.
The problems that the government of India faces in a state like Manipur is that who do they actually negotiate with? Within a small state, there are so many different groups that are formed. Even within the Kuki community, there are so many different groups formed, everyone claiming that we are the ones who are the leaders of the Kuki community that the government of India or the government of the state would not know that with whom do they actually have to negotiate and that has also led to many of these groups being hurt by the government's response and being against the government. The other issue is, while 9/10 of the state's area is in hills, but the population in these areas is very small. 1/10 of the state's area is in the valley, which has a majority of the population that is a Meities community and the government has to ensure that the rights and the demands of both these communities have to be looked into and have to be respected. Over the past few years we have also seen the politician and insurgent nexus in the state where a lot of local politicians have taken up the sides of these insurgents and have been trying to be their representative while having talks with the government at the state and at the centre. Manipur is a border state with Myanmar, which has historically allowed many insurgent groups from the northeast part of India to use a territory which again remains a problem for India which India has to look into.